Tag Archives: compassion fatigue

Compassion Fatigue- A Common Problem

Many adult children of narcissistic parents grow into very compassionate, empathetic adults.  We listen to others & offer support, even when strangers approach us in a grocery store & want to tell us their problems.  We help generously.  We’re often caregivers in many ways- taking care of the sick as well as providing emotional or even financial support to those in need.  And, truthfully, we often enjoy it.

Whether you enjoy caregiving or not, though, sometimes it burns you out.

It’s like a bank account- you can’t withdraw money without ever putting in a deposit or you will overdraft your account. The exact same thing happens with your mental health- if you do nothing but give, there is nothing left over for you.  You become tired, mentally & physically.  You also become very irritable & bottle up your emotions.  You may abuse substances or overeat.  You isolate yourself because you feel you don’t have the energy or patience to deal with people.  You become indifferent to their suffering.  You have plenty of aches & pains without a physical cause & you have difficulty concentrating on things.  Some people stop their good self-care habits, even hygienic habits.

This is a frustrating place to be!  I’ve felt some degree of compassion fatigue for years, but it has reached a peak during my recent recovery.  When all you can do is lay around & do very minimal tasks, it gives you plenty of time to think.  I realized how very few people close to me genuinely cared about the fact I came very close to death recently.  Very few have even asked how I’m doing more than once.  Aside from the obvious anger about this, it hurt me badly.  I have done my best to be there for those in my life as much as possible, & this is how I’m treated after trauma?  This seemed to rocket the compassion fatigue into overdrive.  As I write this, there aren’t many people I’m close to that I can muster up some empathy for at this time.

So.. how does one combat compassion fatigue?  Honestly I had to research it because I’ve never found a way to do it on my own.  The suggestions I’ve found are below along with some things I’ve been trying to do myself.

  • Sometimes people won’t be there for you, but God will be.  Give Him first priority in your life, & go to Him when you need comfort before you go to people.
  • Don’t judge yourself for how you feel.
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Practice good self-care rituals.
  • Set & enforce good boundaries to give yourself a break as you need.
  • Remember, when people come to you for help, you should do your best to point them back to God as much as possible, & not become a god to them by fixing their problems.
  • Talk with others who understand how you feel.
  • Participate in your hobbies often, or start new ones.

I hope this helps you to combat compassion fatigue & to achieve a healthier balance with helping other people.  May God bless you!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Mental Health, Narcissism

Loving Your Enemy- How It Relates To Narcissists

As I was falling asleep last night, hubby was watching TV.  He had some Christian program on, & I heard Matthew 5:44 as I was dozing.. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (KJV)  I quickly made a mental note & asked God to remind me to look up this verse & how it relates to narcissism.   Thankfully, He reminded me this morning so here I am, having looked it up.

 

I checked this verse in the Message translation of the Bible, & it was quite eye opening:

 

Matthew 5:43-47:  “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.”

 

That right there is one of the reasons I love the Message translation so much!  It spells things out super clearly!

 

I think many people think loving your enemies means allowing them to hurt & abuse you.  Clearly this isn’t what God means.  Not even close.

 

The best way to handle a relationship with a narcissist is to pray about it- ask God how you should handle yourself with this person & do as He says.  Learn from your experiences, too.  Being in a relationship with a narcissist can teach you plenty of things, such as learning what boundaries to set & enforce.  You also can love this person without tolerating their abuse by setting boundaries & giving them consequences for their actions.  Both are very loving behaviors, as they teach how to be a better person.  (Whether or not the narcissist learns from your boundaries & consequences is up to her, but you can rest assured you have done the right thing).

 

So many people say that you should cut ties with any narcissist, no matter who he or she is, or where this person is on the NPD spectrum.  While often that is necessary to protect yourself, sometimes it isn’t feasible to sever those ties for various reasons.  In cases like that, then you need to make the best of it for you.  Why not use the opportunity to learn & grow?

 

In 2001, I cut ties with my mother.  I didn’t speak to her until she called me in 2007 because she was having heart surgery.  I  almost didn’t allow her back into my life at that point as she showed no repentance for her past awful behaviors.  She isn’t one to accept responsibility, so this wasn’t exactly a surprise.  However, I allowed her back in anyway.  Since that time, it hasn’t been easy, as any of you who read my blog or books know.  But, I’m still glad I did it.  There have been a few good times, more than ever before, & I have learned a lot.  During our time apart, I was able to heal from much of the abuse she put me through, but it’s during  the time together that I’ve been able to grow & learn so much about myself as well as my mother.  I also have a peace now I didn’t back in 2001, because I have given the relationship with my mother my best.  If one of us opts to end it now, so be it- I have the satisfaction of knowing I’ve done all I can do.

 

Whether you are currently in a relationship or not with your narcissistic mother, you still can follow the command Jesus gave us, & “love your enemy.”  You can pray for her- pray for her healing, her Salvation & anything else you know she needs.  You also can pray for yourself- ask God what you were to learn from your experiences, & how to put this knowledge into practice.

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Filed under Mental Health, Narcissism

November 14, 2013

Bishop T.D. Jakes was preaching on television this morning, & I learned a term that was interesting to me- Compassion Exhaustion.  He used the example of a married couple who has experienced a devastating event, then once it was over, divorced.  He was discussing how we can  swim through 500′ of water, then be afraid we’ll drown in the 2′ of water near shore because we are tired from swimming through that 500′ of water.  This example made sense to me.  I have felt that way for the last few years.  I have experienced traumatic event after traumatic event in my life, yet nowadays when something not so traumatic happens, I feel overwhelmed.  

When you have spent much of your life caring for others in some way, you easily can reach that point.  Caring for the needs of others, either physical or emotional, is a lot of work!  Doing it for an extended period of time will exhaust you.  Maybe not always physically, but always emotionally.  

Growing up with the parents I have, I learned early on that I was to take care of their emotions.  When my parents argued, I was often brought into it.  I remember when I was quite young, maybe 5 or so, my parents arguing in the living room where I was.  My mother grabbed me, & took me into my room, slamming the door behind us.  She sat on my bed holding me & crying.  I knew I was supposed to make her feel better.  Not that she said those words, but that was what I somehow knew she wanted.  This type of thing happened over & over during my life- my mother would become upset & cry on my shoulder.  My father, too.  To this day, they still come to me with problems, even about their marriage.   (this is called Emotional Incest, by the way- it’s a form of emotional abuse)

As a result. at my current age of 42, I have about no patience  with either of my parents.  I am no longer a good listener where they are concerned- instead, I get angry or I change the subject.  When they ignore my protests, & continue to talk, I end up exhausted, anxious, very depressed, & often unable to sleep much that night.  Unfortunately, this also leaves me easily frustrated with my husband or friends who want to talk to me about their problems.  While I may not get angry with them or change the subject, I still end up exhausted, anxious, etc.

Does this sound like you too?  I think it describes many children of abusive parents, in particular of narcissistic parents.

I have a few ways I can think of to combat this problem of Compassion Exhaustion.  If you have this problem as well, maybe you can add to the list.  If so, feel free to share your ideas in the comments section!  I for one would love to hear your thoughts.   🙂

Here are some ways I battle Compassion Exhaustion:

  • Pray.  Talking to God is very, VERY helpful!
  • Take breaks as needed.  From people or activities.  
  • Participate in hobbies.  I like to knit & crochet- they soothe me.  Reading transports me into the story, where I can forget my troubles for a while.  
  • Spend time in nature.  Nature is very restorative.  It feels so good to me to spend time outside on a brisk autumn day, looking at the beautifully colored leaves, feeling the cool breeze blow through my hair..
  • Watch fun movies.
  • Listen to music.

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Mental Health